UK energy company wants Enniskillen’s support for battery storage project near Oil City

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Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

Enniskillen Township is weighing the options of supporting a battery storage project east of Oil City.

Renewable Energy Systems Canada (RES) is asking for a letter of support for the construction of an energy storage project near Oil City. It would generate up to 250 megawatts of energy to be fed into the system in peak demand periods. The Independent Energy System Operator is calling for lithium ion battery projects to help support the current demand.

The project is on a 30 acre parcel on the back portion of a farm on Courtright Line along the Hydro One transmission line.

RES held an open house on Nov. 30 in Oil Springs to answer questions about the project. The public meeting is a requirement of the submission of the project bid.

RES sent a flyer to people living in Oil City – which is less than one kilometre from the proposed site – but just 15 people went, including Enniskillen politicians and officials from Lambton County. Deputy Mayor Judy Krall talked to a couple from Oil City, who did not get a notice. She adds as residents learn about the project, they’re concerned.

Councillors also had questions for Philippe Abergel, a senior development manager with RES, who was at the Jan. 16 council meeting.

There is concerned the project would be only 700 metres east of Oil City. Councillor Mary Lynne McCallum wanted to be sure the company would work with the fire department on training on how to deal with fires at lithium ion storage centres. She also wants to make sure the volunteer department has the equipment it needs.

Abergel says RES will develop and pay for a an emergency response and fire safety plan with the local fire department as well as paying for training and equipment.

Councillor Wally Van Dun wondered about access to the site, asking whether the company would have to use the Hydro One right of way. Abergel says access would be off Gypie Flats Road. The company, he adds, is willing to pay for upgrades of Gypsie Flats and pay for any damage done to the road during construction.

McCallum wondered how the presence of the energy storage project could hamper development of Oil City, as it is only 700 metres to the east of the settlement.

Abergel says RES will also make sure it minimizes the light and noise pollution coming from the site – including installing ‘noise walls’ if necessary. The battery storage site will have fans to cool the batteries when the temperatures reach 22 C.

And, as in many renewable energy projects, Abergel says Enniskillen will benefit financially from the project. Aside from any tax money, RES is offering a Community Fund contributing $500,000 the first year and $125,000 each of the 22 years the facility produces power. That amounts to $3.25 million over the course of the agreement.

But councillors weren’t ready to ink their support immediately. They plan to make a decision at the Feb. 6 council meeting

RES has to submit it’s proposal by Feb. 16.

The Oil City project is one of four which will be considered by the IESO.

St. Clair Township has already sent a letter of support for three battery energy storage systems proposed by Enbridge Gas, east of Corunna around the NOVA Chemicals plant. All three sites could produce 200 megawatts of power and will use lithium ion batteries. 

 Concerns were raised at a Dec. 19 meeting in St. Clair Township centring on the danger of a fire breaking out at the proposed sites, especially ones that are being built close to natural gas pipelines.

Santo Giorno, a local expert on green energy projects, cited a fire that occurred in California at a similar facility where people were evacuated within a three-kilometre radius of the site. Giorno says the fires can emit toxic fumes.